The story behind Le Fou Frog goes like this: In 1996, Marseilles-born chef Mano Rafael was working at a private dining club and was not very happy. "He called me one day and said, 'I can't take it anymore. Let's open our own restaurant now.' So I looked through the want ads and found a listing for a mom-and-pop turn-key operation," says Barbara Rafael, who runs Le Fou Frog with her husband.
The turn-key operation turned out to be located in Lee's Summit, which wasn't really the neighborhood that the Rafaels wanted for their Gallic bistro. But the realtor knew of another potential restaurant site: the old Red Front — a combination bar and package liquor store known for serving delicious meatball sandwiches — at 400 East Fifth Street. The Rafaels instantly bonded with the owner ("He looked just like my grandfather," Barbara Rafael says), and a deal was struck.
"I had wanted to open a restaurant on the Plaza or Brookside," Barbara Rafael says, "but Mano wanted to be in the River Market and he was exactly right. The Plaza would have been the wrong setting for the spirit of the restaurant we envisioned."
That spirit was — and still is — a lively (and sometimes raucous), eclectic mix of food, wine and people in a distinctly urban setting. To fete the restaurant's 15th anniversary, the Rafaels are hosting a wine dinner on Wednesday, September 21, beginning at 6:30 p.m. The meal is priced at $75 per person (the wine pairings are an additional $25), not including tax and gratuity.
Barbara Rafael says the meal will begin with a trio of amuse-bouche, followed by a mock turtle soup with sherry, a salad Lyonnaise topped with a poached quail egg, pappardelle tossed with lobster, a game course of venison loin, wild boar sausage and quail leg confit, and boeuf en croute with sauce bernaise. "Our pastry chef, Carter Holton, says he's planning a very whimsical dessert," Barbara Rafael says.
The theme of the festivities will be the 1980s, and there will be theatrical entertainment throughout the night. For reservations, call 816-474-6060.